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Brown, Wilson, Jr. (1882-1959)


Photograph of Admiral Wilson Brown
FDR Presidential Library. Cropped by author.

Wilson Brown graduated from the Naval Academy in 1902, making him one of the oldest American naval officers to serve in combat during the war.  He had been a staff officer with the Atlantic Squadron during World War I and had commanded a destroyer.  Between the wars he attended the Naval Staff College and commanded the New London submarine base and battleship Colorado. He was the naval aide to President Roosevelt in the 1930s, and Roosevelt was sufficiently impressed to see to it that Brown was appointed superintendent of the Naval Academy. Brown had also played an important role in amphibious planning for Pacific Fleet in 1941.

The attack on Pearl Harbor found Brown a vice admiral in command of the scouting forces of the Pacific Fleet.  Though not an aviator, he was placed in command of the Lexington task force. This force played a key role in the early U.S. carrier raids, including the dramatic Lae-Salamaua raid across the Owen Stanley Mountains of New Guinea.  Although King believed that Brown was "pretty good", his deteriorating health led King to have Nimitz moved him back to Pearl Harbor as commander of his amphibious forces.

Brown subsequently fell ill and was reposted to Boston as commandant of 1 Naval District. He then served as Roosevelt's naval adviser, retiring in 1944 from active duty in the Navy.

Brown was "an intelligent paragon of old school formality" (Lundstrom 2006.) His age was evident during his stint in command of combat forces, where he was dubbed "Shaky" by junior officers on account of his slight head tremor.

Service record

1882-4-27     

Born at Philadelphia
1902
Midshipman     
Graduates from Naval Academy, standing 44th in a class of 59
1917

Staff, Naval Forces in European Waters
1918

Commander, DD Parker
1920

Naval War College
1921
Commander     
Executive officer, Colorado
1923

Naval aide to the President
1929

Commander, New London Submarine Base
1932
Captain
Commander, California
1934

Chief of staff, Naval War College
1936
Rear admiral
Commander, Training Squadron Scouting Force
1938

Superintendent, Naval Academy
1941-2-1
Vice admiral (brevet)      
Commander, Scouting Force
1942-4-10

Commander, Amphibious Force, Pacific Fleet
1942-7-15
Rear admiral Commander, 1 Naval District
1943-2-9

Naval aide to the President
1944-12-1
Vice admiral
Retires but remains a naval adviser to the President
1957-1-2

Dies at New Haven Naval Hospital, Connecticut


References

Boatner (1996)

Lundstrom (2006)

Morison (1948)
Pettibone (2006)



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